Richardson-Olmsted Complex - Table of Contents   ................... Elmwood Historic District (EAST) - Table of Contents

Buffalo State Asylum

Elmwood Historic District (EAST)
National Register of Historic Places Nomination

Section 8, Pages 31-32
Prepared by Clinton Brown Company Architecture/Rebuild (online Feb. 2016)

Research by Hannah Beckman

The third major development to occur in the 11th Ward during this era that helped shape the Elmwood District was the project for the Buffalo State Asylum for the Insane. Known by different names over the course of its existence (including Buffalo State Hospital, the Buffalo Psychiatric Center, and currently the Richardson- Olmsted Complex), this project was a large undertaking that had a dramatic impact on shaping and taming the landscape at the area north of the 11th Ward.

A break-out project designed by soon-to-be nationally prominent architect Henry Hobson Richardson on grounds designed by Frederick Law Olmsted, the Buffalo State Asylum helped to establish the high standard of architecture set amidst an enveloping designed landscape for the Elmwood area. With Forest Lawn Cemetery and the Olmsted parks system, notably The Park, the establishment of the Buffalo State Asylum also helped to shape what would become the northern boundary and the essential character of the Elmwood Historic District.

While the Buffalo State Asylum created a notable architectural feature in the landscape of the 11th Ward, the grounds of the hospital also were a significant new addition to the area. The grounds were surveyed by Marsden Davey in 1870 and designed by Frederick Law Olmsted between 1871 and 1881, with later improvements and refinements made between 1881 and 1899.105 The grounds promoted Thomas Kirkbride’s philosophy of the therapeutic landscape, where ample natural light, fresh air and healthy activity were thought to improve the physical and mental wellbeing of the patients.

This concept of open space and a natural landscape promoting health and well-being was influential in the development of open, single-family houses in the Elmwood Historic District. With the completion of the Buffalo State Hospital buildings and grounds, the final piece of the framing element of the edges of the Elmwood Historic District was in place. While the grounds of the hospital formed a barrier for development, the building’s twin towers created a significant visual landmark on the horizon that is as recognizable today as it was in the nineteenth century.

105 Heritage Landscapes, Cultural Landscape Report: The Richardson Olmsted Complex, Buffalo NY, report (October 2008), 1-2. houses in the Elmwood Historic

Page by Chuck LaChiusa in 2016
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